A Glimpse of Old Columbia Heights

Berger residenceRecently, I purchased the photograph above because it intrigued me.  It contained enough information to give me an idea that it was located in Columbia Heights, but I am familiar enough with 13th Street to know that the house is no longer standing. What I wasn’t expecting was that the address listed — 2423 13th Street — may have been the address of the property ca. 1900, but that the address changed significantly ca. 1905 to 2533 13th Street.

So here is what I know about the photo based on my research and some assistance from the MLK Library’s Washingtoniana special collections librarian, Michele Casto.

Fred G. Berger, builder of 2423 13th Street, NW.

Fred G. Berger, builder of 2423 13th Street, NW.

The photo dates to ca. 1900 and shows a wood frame house on 13th Street looking to the northeast. The house is located at what is today 2533 13th Street, NW. Fred G. Berger bought two adjoining vacant lots at this location in 1892 for $7,588.12 and $6,789.38 respectively. The residence Berger erected contained 12 rooms and was described as being “modern in every respect and … surrounded on all sides by wide lawns.” The property contained a large stable toward the rear.

In 1915, Berger was described as being one of the most popular men in the theatrical profession. He was identified chiefly with both the Columbia Theater and Poli’s theater. Although in 1902 he was the manager of the Lafayette Opera House.

Oddly enough, Berger sold his house on 13th Street in 1902  to Hopewell H. Darneille. Darneille was the tax assessor of the District, a position he obtained in 1899. He held this position as tax assessor until he retired in 1906. This was so that he could focus more on his interests in Mexico, where he was described as having large holdings in silver mines located in southern Mexico. In 1911, Darneille’s family moved to 2942 Ordway in Cleveland Park. That house still stands today. Darneille died from a fall in his basement in 1913.

From there, the ownership trail got a little muddy and will require a little more time to unravel … but I do know this. The vacant lot to the north of the house was developed into the apartment building at 2535 13th Street in 1925. The three story frame dwelling at 2533 13th Street (the house in the photo above) appears to have stood until at least 1954, perhaps later. It was eventually razed to make way for the current apartment building that was built in 1957.

Below are is a photo of the property today, showing the 1957 (right) and 1925 (left) apartment buildings that replaced the 1892 house shown above.

2533 2535 13th Street

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10 Comments on “A Glimpse of Old Columbia Heights”

  1. marcus Says:

    Very cool! Thank you for taking the time to do the research and share with all of us.

  2. Angry Parakeet Says:

    What a sad loss. To people who lament the splitting up of old houses into condos, I’d prefer to keep this gem (even split up) to the hideous yellow brick apt. bldg.

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  10. Bradley R Andrews Says:

    The house was built by prominent Washington DC architect T.F. Schneider. We have a Chemigraph of it in a selection of his work.
    Brad Andrews


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